Shirley Rich, Casting Agent for Broadway and Hollywood, Dies at 87

Obituaries   Shirley Rich, Casting Agent for Broadway and Hollywood, Dies at 87
Shirley Rich, who was considered a leader among casting directors, working for decades in Hollywood and on Broadway, died on Dec. 28 in Greenwich, CT, of natural causes, according to the New York Times. She was 87.

While in the employ of producer Harold Prince in the 1960s, she helped cast such landmark shows as Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret. She also worked for Rodgers and Hammerstein and M-G-M before opening her own office, Shirley Rich Casting, in 1969.

In film, her heyday was the 1970s, when she filled such landmark films of the era as "Saturday Night Fever," "Kramer Vs. Kramer," "Serpico," "Diary of a Mad Housewife" and "Three Days of the Condor" with new, unusual faces, many of them found during her talent-finding missions through the Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway world.

Her 1981 film "Taps," which featured such then-blossoming actors as Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Evan Handler and Giancarlo Esposito in some of their first film roles, is considered a particularly prescient piece of casting. She has also been credited with giving early breaks to the actors Judd Hirsch, James Spader, Edward Norton, Rod Steiger and Sada Thompson.

Talking about his struggles as a young actor, Spader once said, "I finally met this casting director, Shirley Rich, who was one of about two angels that I had when I moved to New York. I said, 'Shirley, I'm having such a hard time.' She said, 'Jimmy, at the very beginning of your career there's nothing wrong, even when you've never done anything, there's nothing wrong with saying, I'm in this for this, but I'm not in for that.'" Ms. Rich, who spotted Spader at 17, thought he had "a sophistication that other boys his age did not have. It was extraordinary."

Her other Broadway shows include The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, Baker Street, "It's a Bird...It's a Plane..It's Superman, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, God's Favorite, Herzl, Sly Fox, which was the Broadway debut of Jeffrey Tambor, Ballroom, Hide and Seek, Crimes of the Heart, Alice in Wonderland, which featured Kate Burton in an early role, and Private Lives. Shirley Belle Rich was born in Chicago on Dec. 10, 1922, and was raised in Ottumwa, IA. She received a bachelor of fine arts degree from what is now the University of Iowa and a master's in theatre from Smith College. From 1948 to 1951, working as an assistant casting director for Rodgers and Hammerstein, she worked on South Pacific and The King and I. From 1951 to 1954, she worked as the eastern talent scout for the Talent Department of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures. After a break, in which she raised her children for several years, she resumed her work, taking a job with Harold Prince.

Ms. Rich was among the first casting directors to be elected both to membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and as a voting member for the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards for theatrical achievement.

She is survived by her husband, Lewis M. Krohn, whom she married in 1952, her son Steven Krohn and a daughter, Lisa Krohn.

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